Gathering Gourmet Food in the Wilds of Spain

Deep in a dark,thick mountain pine forest you get that sort of silence that only nature can produce. The pine needle carpet  and the closely growing pine trees prevent light and sound from invading the depths of the silent pinewooded slope. A wonderful soundless environment is only broken by your footsteps and those of your brother-in-law who walks as though he has lost something, scouring the pine needle floor. He hasn’t lost anything. He is looking for wild mushrooms. It is an annual tradition to go out in October and November to look for these gifts from nature.

Nature in Spain

The typical wild mushroom in Spain…it grows normally near pine trees.Lactarius Deliciosus: Saffron Milk Cap or Red Pine mushroom

He’s a biology professor and quite the expert on wild mushrooms which comes in handy when gathering these amazing and varied “fruits of the forest”. Besides the standard wild mushrooms I have also eaten with him black trumpets,weird looking but great tasting fungus, and countless other mushrooms of all types and sizes, including things that grow on dead trees; fungus that I wouldn’t touch let alone eat.

Walking holidays in Spain

An unknown wild fungus…one I found on my own and dont know it so I didnt take it home!

Over the last two or three years it is very fashionable on foodie blogs to write about gathering,the autumn and what one can harvest from nature. This is great as it gives access to a subject that alot of people in Europe  probably knew very little about.Sharing info and learning is always fun.

Of course, here in Spain hunting/gathering food during the whole year is not fashionable. It is simply a normal part of life for many people. I have written about wild asparragus and snails in another post: but the king of ‘gathered’ food is the wild mushroom. It is advisable to only ever eat what you know 100% to be edible. Every year in Spain there are always cases of poisoning and even deaths. If you don’t know what you are doing then don’t pick is the best strategy!

Food  and wineTours in rural Spain

Red Pine Mushroom

All over Spain you can go on short Mycology courses in many towns and villages so you can learn to enjoy these natural delicacies.

Spanish food and wine

Typical mushroom hunting countryside

What else can you pick to eat at this time of year in the wild? The Madroño fruit (strawberry tree fruit), the prickly pear, and pomegranates (normally on land or farms that have been abandoned in the mountains). Sloes are also to found in the cooler climes as are chestnuts. And then in Teruel and Soria truffles are around although to find wild ones is a challenge without a trained dog or pig! You can also collect carob beans and acorns. Both can be made into a flour or cooked as ingredients. Acorns can be roasted like chestnuts.

Natureand local food on all our trips

Preparation before cooking

The gathering outings “en familia” to the countryside in search of wild mushrooms are always fun and these  sessions really do take you to some beautiful, lonely and unique parts of Spain.There is nothing like wandering in a deep dark forest without a particular route. Close up to nature and fun. But be careful lots of people get lost every year in Spain because they are often not used to keeping their bearings in the countryside and they walk off into the forest heads down concentrating on the wonders of fungus and they forget to check where they are in relation to their cars. I have met people lost on more than one occasion.

Gastronomy tours in Spain

The cooked version

The  final part and the best way to round off the ‘hunt’ is to eat your trophies. Either cooked in the frying pan with a dash of oil or in a stew the mushrooms are fantastic and accompanied with a good red wine and good company it doesn’t get much better!

Foodie Tours Europe

Tomato/vegetable pisto with wild mushroom…..extreme deliciousness!!

The Spanish Thyme Traveller organise trips on which you can experience the amazing food and culture of the  beautiful interior of Valencia and Teruel.Check out our webpage by clicking on this logo:



17 thoughts on “Gathering Gourmet Food in the Wilds of Spain

  1. Great post about one of my favourite activities. It’s lucky you go with your biology professor brother-in-law because it always makes sense to go with someone who knows their stuff …. making a mistake when it comes to wild mushrooms can have terrible consequences.

    However, it’s like anything … finding them, learning about them then cooking and eating them is delicious fun!

  2. Flabbergasting fungi! Your post made me jealous – our planned mushroom-foraging trip today has been rained off! But it’s a wonderful way to experience the ‘other side’ of Spain.

  3. I am never sure what it’s OK to eat or gather, in terms of whether the land belongs to anyone or not, whether the farm is abandoned, or that year’s crop is… Hate to see delicious fruit left rotting on the trees

    • Thanks for the comment Maya. If you get local Ordinance Survey type maps they mark clearly what is monte publico(common land).Abandoned farms: a bit more tricky If you are in the middle of nowhere and you pick a couple of figs or pomegranates from abandoned trees on clearly abandonded farms they normally wouldnt mind if you are picking just one or two.It depends a little how private the land is and how open it is.Round here there is a very large area of public mountain where there are abandoned farms which havent been lived in for 40 years…very remote and right in the middle of public land. If you are walking in fields and filling bags or crates then that is obviously not on. The wilder you go the better.

  4. I’m in the don’t-know-what-I’m doing category but I would love to go along with someone knowledgeable and learn about it. Great “caveman” type satisfaction to be had from eating something you’ve either grown or picked yourself.

  5. I used to forage for fungi back in the UK I was lucky to have a good guide – Sill a little unsure about doing the same here though!

    • I am relatively ignorant but over the years have learnt the basics.The Saffron Milk Cap is relatively easy to identify after yoo have been out a few times. Even still I always prefer to go with someone who is an expert

  6. I tend to stick to stuff I know 100% is OK to eat – chestnuts, almonds (none left on our tress now) and similar. It’s very common to see the older generation collecting pine nuts (I don’t have the patience for that) in the wooded areas in villages around Madrid, although given the price that pine nuts fetch in the supermarket maybe I ought to join them!